Western suburbs of  Sydney, 1987

I knocked on the door of a house in Blacktown 1987. I remember the year because we had a financial crisis of sorts that year – not that it concerned me, I was always in a financial crisis in those days. I was answering an ad in the local paper for share accommodation  – a brother and sister were looking for a roommate.

Jessica answered the door and I was instantly mesmerised, breathless. We chatted and we laughed and when I got the room I was happy, but also somewhat overwhelmed to be now  going to be sharing a house with the most interesting women I had ever yet met.

I tried hard not to get in the way, to pay my rent, keep to myself, not to be any hassle – but it was impossible not to fall for my landlady. Any bloke would, after all.

Jessica had several dropkick boyfriends and for the life of me I couldn’t see why they appealed to her. She had no stereo so when I arrived with a little system of sorts and some music that Jess was not familiar with it was a great ice breaker. She had not heard much in the world of blues and R&B  and she liked the music I brought to the house and we grew to became friends.

I was like another brother to her. She fancied my band mates more than me so that was bit of a  drag. I can’t remember much about her brother, the other housemate, not even his name sadly. But I do remember two golden retriever dogs that also made up part of the household.

We did share a love for one particular song. A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum. I didn’t really know what the song was all about but it affected me.  I had the album and played it often. I never knew what it meant to Jess but it was clearly was hitting a nerve somewhere. For me it was the swelling organ and lyrics that seemed so profound that they must have some deeper meaning I was yet to clearly understand. I just loved that song, but 30 years later, I still don’t really understand it.

We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray

And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale
that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale…

The band that I was in at the time played often at the Wagon Wheels Hotel in St Marys and the juke box had A Whiter Shade Of Pale on it so I always played it when I arrived for a gig. One time Jess came to see the band and when I put it on she smiled. I can still see that smile.

Eventually the house got sold, we moved out, life moved on and we lost touch. It is many years ago now and I still love that song, I sometimes think of Jessica. I wonder what happened to her. Has she had a good life?


See also Jenny Mitchell’s memories of A Whiter Shade Of Pale.